Work Practice as Practice

Nancy Gonzales, long time Dharma Rain member and participant at Wednesday work practice, wrote about her experiences to share with us. She notes the importance of work practice as a means to engage with sangha and the special land we are lucky to care for.

Nancy sweeping the Founder’s Shrine

I started attending Wednesday work practice around the time the Siskiyou property was acquired and when preparations began on healing the land. Building did not begin right away because we first focused on cultivating and healing the ground. I recall one of my first visits in early spring, when it was breezy and cold. Kakumyo sent me out to hoe up the savannah area, but the tool was not at all sharp, so not much got done that day! So I showed up next time to volunteer to sharpen tools. At lunch that day Kyogen saw me and asked, in that way of his, “What are you doing here?” I had been around the sangha for a long time but always at the edges, at irregular intervals. I replied. “I’m here to sharpen tools. Somebody could get hurt.” It was something I knew how to do and they let me. I also picked up vast amounts of garbage and many golf balls. I am good at organizing, so I helped to tidy up the Conex (metal shipping container). As the building progressed, I was there on Wednesdays to help with whatever might be needed. I kept track of tools and helped round them up during breaks and at the end of practice. This was my way of having more time around the sangha beyond attending services and ceremonies and classes. 

These days, I try to arrive around 9:30 on Wednesday mornings. I’m currently on the sacristy team and during this Ango period, my goal is to clean the altars and refresh the flowers before the midday meditation bell. Since our grounds are now producing so many blooms, I grab the snips and walk all over the property in search of fresh flowers and foliage. I try to get some sweeping of the zendo in too. I help in the kitchen during lunch prep and do the recycling and trash removal and basically do whatever Tenzo wants! When we move to a lighter schedule, I will adjust my hours so I can include being part of the sewing practice. I’m trying to make friends with my own sewing machine and I bring it along as this is a good time for me to sit down and do it.

Work practice is a special time for me to spend a few hours a week in community and to marvel at what this piece of land has become for so many of us, sangha and surrounding neighbors alike. After experiencing a year of lockdown, the pleasure of once again being able to share a socially distanced lunch on the engawa in the springtime is such a treasure. I am grateful to so many in the Dharma Rain community for the enormous amount of effort which is ongoing, to offer to all who are interested in this place of investigation and purpose. I invite everyone to attend Wednesday work practice and experience some of the atmosphere these days will add to your personal practice.

 Nancy has also been known to take pictures for us:

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